The Healing Blog

Inspiring Zen-based Healing Messages from Kendo, posted Every Month, coinciding with the Distance Healing Ceremony

Kendo’s Healing Message for June

Kendo has been asked, “If, despite your best efforts, things are getting you down, how can you get back to feeling optimistic?”

This is a perfectly natural question – understandably so, as the norm for most of us is continuing to meet recurring challenges in order to keep our heads above water, so-to-speak. It’s entirely reasonable to wonder, “Won’t things ever get easier?”

Kendo says that feeling this way can be helped greatly by letting everything go in meditation, but the process can be enhanced. Of course you should find the place of Zen peace and relax absolutely, but adding a hint of Kyu Shin Do can enhance the process and add perspective.

In Kyu Shin Do, Kendo has advised that seeking Zen peace after visualising all your problems positioned away from you, at a safe distance – effectively ‘in orbit’ around you – can help you achieve a deeper Zen peace, and feel better and more objective about returning to your life’s challenges following your meditation. You’re not forgetting about, ignoring, or dismissing your challenges – you’re giving yourself a well-deserved break from them, and you’ll be re-empowered and equipped with new perspectives on them when you return to dealing with them.

During the unique challenges of the past year, Kendo has found that some people have confessed to becoming more dispirited than they’ve ever felt, and finding oneself in this state of mind can be particularly difficult. If you find yourself to be depressed, it’s actually normal to lack the motivation to do anything, including helping yourself; depression can genuinely shut us down and deprive us of any and all motivation.

However, this illustrates the one key aspect of self-discipline which Kendo most strongly recommends – don’t believe the nonsense your conscious mind tells you – you are fundamentally wiser than it, and you re-charge your batteries by switching it off and reaching your wise, intuitive core. You can never meditate too much – indeed while each meditation may follow the same format, every one is different – you are different every time you meditate, and every one empowers you in unique ways.

Of course, the sceptical, reductionistic, limited conscious mind will raise objections and prompt you to ask, “What’s the point?” If you listen, then a simpler, more basic, less sophisticated level of yourself is triumphing over a wiser, more profound, and higher part of yourself – the part which can lift you out of any negativity and help you become all you can be.

So, when things feel bleak, take Kendo’s advice and remember that you are bigger and better than how you feel or any of the childish arguments of your simple mind – and all you have to do to regain the upper hand is take the initiative, spend some time in Zen peace, and you’ll come out on top once more.

Kendo would remind us that this simple act of self-discipline and self-motivation is at the foundation of the warrior spirit – you won’t know how great you can be unless you remember to rise above and beyond the crass complaints of the simplistic conscious mind.

Onwards!

Kendo’s Healing Message for May

As life begins to look like it’s going to return to ‘normal’, we have every right to feel optimistic and look forward to the kind of summer we know and love – good company, good weather, good times. However, Kendo recommends that we reflect upon things, as doing so will strengthen our balance. What does he mean by this?

Those who already meditate and follow Kendo’s recommendations know that he is a strong advocate of counting our blessings, as opposed to falling into the trap of expecting them. When everything is going well it is easy to slip into a kind of complacency about our responsibilities to others, and to the natural world around us – of which we are, of course, a part. This is why Kendo recommends meditation and humility, so that we don’t lose sight of any opportunities to be the best we can be.

But emerging from the restrictions of the pandemic presents a new challenge – we may find that immersing ourselves into what we used to enjoy may lead to feelings of anti-climax and even disappointment; why might this happen?

When we are challenged we need to find inner resources to meet, manage, and master the challenge, and this is what we have all been doing – generally successfully – as a nation. As we’ve all been in it together, we’ve shared a coping mentality and looked forward together to freedom from limitations, but we have been changed by our enforced restrictions – we have been strengthened and deepened by our challenges. It may be that we need more from an unrestricted life than we had before – we may find that we need our lives to be more meaningful.

Finding our new balance is greatly eased by meditating. As Kendo has observed often before, seeking the peace of Zen and being open to our intuitive wisdom helps us to flow into the best person we can be, with no pre-conceptions or attitudes or opinions holding us back. Remembering that the conscious mind is limited is extremely helpful in making it our ally as opposed to our master, and allowing all levels of our selves to be expressed.

So, as our freedoms increase, Kendo recommends that we embrace them in an enlightened way – ease back into them as opposed to bingeing on them, and take with you everything you have learned from successfully coping with your recent restrictions. As ever, taking an enlightened approach to change – even positive change – will make your experience of it, and others’ experience of you – the best it can be.

Kendo’s Healing Message for April

Sakura in Snow with Buddha WS_sm

This April we saw a sight never usually seen – the exquisite Sakura cherry blossom in snow. Usually signifying spring, when cherry blossom appears nature is usually green, the days are lengthening and warming – by this time we tend to have had enough of winter!

However, this year nature gave us this exquisite surprise – a most unlikely combination of beauties – and, like the Sakura itself, it was a fleeting beauty, lasting less than one afternoon.

Temperatures low enough for snow usually prevent the Sakura from even developing, let alone appearing, but they survived for their full term, and in so doing, this year gave us an additional metaphor for the innate beauty of nature.

Kendo would recommend that we contemplate this metaphor. Surprising and unexpected events arise in all our lives, sometimes seeming to suggest a reversal or adversity, but, just as the Sakura survived the snow, we are more resilient than we think, more able to survive our own adversities and see the ‘gift’ they may have contained.

In the west we tend to refer to the philosopher Nietsche and his phrase, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”; whilst this is arguably true, Kendo’s take on reflections upon our lives is more nuanced. The adversities we face give us the opportunity to become stronger, wiser, more compassionate, more patient, more tolerant – all qualities which contribute to becoming the best we could be.

Further, sudden, surprising reversals have an additional quality – they test our ability to avoid panic. As in all things to do with the human condition, Kendo advises that we need to be mindful, meditative, and contemplative, even when these hardly seem to be the most appropriate response. But this is the thing we should carry in our consciousnesses – to remember that the wise, meditative response is its own reward, in the further intuitive wisdom which will flow from your meditations on your circumstances.

It’s worth remembering that each of us is arguably as unique and as exquisite as each Sakura flower, and as resilient in adversity.

Kendo’s Healing Message for March

It has been said that the universe naturally tends towards chaos, which may seem ominous to anyone who seeks order, but it’s worth recalling that among the outcomes of this natural impetus are such wonders as the sakura – the exquisite Japanese cherry blossom. Likewise, another outcome is the human being who is capable of appreciating the beauty of the sakura, being inspired by it, and holding and recalling an image of it, which amounts to the opportunity for lifelong inspiration from just a single glance.

In the same vein, human life can seem to be little more than a series of challenges. As soon as we overcome one difficulty another seems to arise, and this can seem wearisome and sometimes even pointless. However, Kendo suggests a helpful perspective on challenges.

Just as Kendo observes when guests at the Nagasaki Retreat reach the ‘Pathway Bench’, every single pebble in the path which has been traversed on the way there represents a challenge having been successfully overcome. With this viewpoint, the pebbles which lie ahead are given a less ominous perspective – despite all those challenges, we’ve successfully survived and reached the point of reflection and contemplation (the Pathway Bench), and our contemplations should reveal that our survival and ability to be reflective about challenges means that those which inevitably lie ahead feel less ominous. However challenging our journey has been, it has strengthened us and equipped us with resources which tip the balance in our favour as we face future challenges.

Kendo recommends that we take a moment to appreciate the warrior nature we have developed on our journeys. Having overcome so much, we should do more than just breathe a sigh of relief – we should recognise that we have developed strength, we have become skilled, we have the benefit of experience, which in turn makes us wise, capable of anticipating and reacting with the right focus, and, in the light of appreciating all this, we deserve to feel confident in ourselves and whatever future faces us.

This is actually an objectivity which comes from Zen and Kyu Shin Do – taking ourselves out of the subjective experiences of our battles and looking objectively at all the resources we brought to bear in triumphing brings deserved confidence and additional strength of purpose to our quest to be the best we can be. This is, as has been said, the ‘good fight’, recognising our hard-won strengths and remembering that they are forever ours, whatever we may face in the future.

It is with this immensely positive self-knowledge, born of meditation and reflection, that Kendo always encourages us ‘Onwards!’

Kendo’s Healing Message for February

As a way out of the restrictions caused by Covid-19 becomes apparent, anticipation of our forthcoming freedoms is delicious! The ability to see friends and family without limitation and engage in unfettered relaxation and leisure activities and look forward to holidays is universally welcome and represents the return of some kind of ‘normal, but Kendo recommends that we take the opportunity to consider some of the aspects related to that return.

Firstly, the science which has led to such incredibly fast development of multiple vaccines has its roots in inspiration, which is undeniably intuitive. Whilst data can tell a scientist where they’ve arrived, it doesn’t necessarily point to where to go next. Much of the hard work which led to the required breakthroughs will have resulted from scientists wracking their brains and exhausting the next logical destination, and the resulting rationalistic vacuum creates the opportunity for the intuition to be heard. As Kendo points out, before a scientific theory can become a rule through experimentation, it begins as a philosophy, an idea, an inspiration – even for scientists at the cutting edge and under pressure, the intuition remains the key to brilliant advances, and space must be made for it to be heard. Kendo reminds us that this always remains true for us all.

As we begin to benefit from the outcomes of intuition-based science, we’ll be re-embarking on our social and leisure activities, and this ‘re-start’ gives us the opportunity to consider anew the consequences. Our reduced activities under Covid have resulted in a record fall in carbon dioxide levels worldwide, which will hugely benefit nature globally. Kendo advises that our relief at the return of our freedoms should be tempered with humility – we need to see any injury we cause to the world around us as an injury to ourselves, and any concession to caring for the environment as doing ourselves a favour. Such an enlightened approach – as guided by our inner Buddha – will naturally benefit us all, and perhaps even recalling the intuition-guided scientists to whom we owe so much will help us to make the best decisions for all – ourselves, our families, and the whole world.

Kendo recommends that even though a sense of normality will be returning to our lives, this is an especially good opportunity to meditate on the most enlightened way to use our new freedoms – it would be the responsible, Buddhist thing to do.

Kendo’s Healing Message for January

Whilst there is hope on the horizon with the Covid-19 vaccine eventually becoming available for everyone, for many of us the waiting is very difficult; so much of our lives has been shut down, so much of what we knew of seeing our friends and extended family has been taken away, and so many aspects of getting out and about and being a part of society are currently not possible. And all this is before we even consider the financial impact of the current situation on so many people’s lives; not only do we have plenty to worry about, but we may be beginning to feel diminished, in and of ourselves.

On this last point, there has been quite a lot said about how such restrictions affect people’s mental health, and this is genuinely a matter to be taken seriously, but Kendo would tell you that there is much that you can do to feel better, maintain the balance in your life, and come through these challenges healthy and able to resume your life undiminished and fully capable, when circumstances allow.

Kendo would remind you that even if you have felt listlessness, disengaged with the world, and perhaps even depressed, you might be losing sight of how powerful you are as a force for good. It might be difficult to see this amidst such restrictions on your life, but you can still be a strong force for good in people’s lives, and doing so will restore purpose and achievement to your own.

Kendo recommends that you try to see the possibilities that still exist to enable you to feel connected – if you are reading this, you have a ‘device’, be it a phone or tablet or computer, and we are fortunate that electronic communication on all these devices is so capable now. Kendo would recommend taking a break from scrolling through other people’s versions of the outside world, and reach out to your contacts, including those you haven’t been in touch with for some time. Talking about how you feel is incredibly healthy, and asking others how they feel is healing and generous for you and whomever you speak to. As you ‘pay it forward’, so it will come back to you – reaching out to others for no reason other than to engage in healthy, uplifting interaction will cause ripples of benevolence and positivity to spread throughout our society, and we will all benefit.

As Kendo points out, you can choose to be an active part in that positive movement, and it begins with realising that the current restrictions and challenges do not define or diminish who you really are – you just need to recognise your true value and express it in the world.

Of course, Kendo would recommend meditating on this – if you let all your current frustrations fall away and enjoy true Zen peace, when you come back you will have found your ‘Buddha within’, and, realising the power of that, you can spread your peace and wisdom and healing just by calling or messaging someone.

Despite the current challenges, you can remind yourself that you are a powerful agent for positivity, and being your best for the benefit of your friends and family and the whole of society just requires a little lateral thinking at this time… Go ahead: use your devices to pay it forward to everyone you can reach – you’ll be changing our currently challenged world for the better, conversation by conversation.

Kendo’s Healing Message for December

Kendo’s December Healing Message falls around mid-way between the American ‘Thanksgiving’ holiday and Christmas, and the sentiments of both are entirely appropriate to reflect upon at this hectic time of year, and indeed anytime.

‘Thanksgiving’ is an opportunity to reflect upon the things and events from the previous year for which we would do well to reflect upon and be thankful; too often in the western world we tend to expect our blessings rather than counting them, and this simple gesture of humility can illustrate the link between the health and positivity of our own attitudes and the ‘quality of life’ we experience.

The sentiments of Christmas centre around peace and goodwill, both of which feed into the ethic of forgiveness, which itself is a gesture of humility and optimism for human relationships going forward.

Kendo has long championed rising with courage and confidence to meet the challenges we face in life, not only from a position of strength through peace but also from a perspective of Zen-based wisdom. Strength is found in the peace, clarity, and inspiration found in meditation, but in the best ‘Zen through Kyu Shin Do’ tradition, recalling humility and goodwill as we begin our meditations is extremely powerful.

There is an ‘urban legend’ of sorts regarding Marcus Aurelius, a Roman general, wherein despite his exalted and revered status he hired an ordinary man to walk behind him to constantly say to him, “You’re just a man, you’re just a man.” Whether apocryphal or not, this story illustrates self-knowledge, wisdom, and humility, and – no doubt – an awareness of the strength born of a healthy inner balance that can come from such an enlightened approach to one’s place in the world.

We cannot know what challenges will arise in our lives, nor how great they may be, but it is important not to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by them. There are things that we can change in life and things that we won’t be able to, but we may not realise how able we are to mitigate the impact of a challenge simply by applying a good attitude towards it. Feelings of panic or desolation will obscure our ability to see avenues for constructive action, and, logically, they won’t help mitigate a difficult situation, and Kendo’s perennial advice remains the key – find Zen peace, let it all fall away, and let your intuition wisely guide you.

All at the Nagasaki Retreat wish everyone a happy and peaceful festive season, and at this time of year Kendo would encourage us all to reflect upon the following: be thankful for your blessings, be humble in your strengths, and be confident in knowing that you always have the power to be a force for good, for optimism, and for positivity in the lives of others and indeed the whole world.

Kendo’s Healing Message for November

Today is a Special Anniversary – it’s exactly 56 years since a fateful Friday 13th November in 1964 when Kendo Nagasaki first appeared in a wrestling ring; for his first match he was ‘Top of the Bill’, the headline bout, so it’s true to say that Kendo started at the top and worked up! The inspiration that Kendo has provided these last 56 years continues to this day, with an equal partner in his astonishing dominance in wrestling being its foundations in Zen, which enabled the young man behind Kendo’s iconic mask to achieve so much.

As many of the regular readers of this blog will know, Peter, the man behind Kendo’s mask, wrote his autobiography a couple of years ago, and he has been delighted with the reception that ‘Kendo Nagasaki and the Man Behind the Mask’ has received!

Of course, it is a sporting autobiography, and like many successful athletes Peter has had an eventful and entertaining journey to the success he saw channelling Kendo. However, there is much more to Peter’s journey than ‘finding a niche’, or ‘capitalising on a talent’, or even ‘hanging in there’; Peter’s life began with significant challenges, and he looked to have no prospects at all until the influence of Kendo Nagasaki began to be felt when he met and began studying under Sensei Kenshiro Abbe.

Sensei Abbe was no mere judo instructor; he conducted his classes in a highly mindful way, requiring a genuine stillness from his students before directing them towards focus and intuitive insight, and this is what made him an unsung Zen master. After the old phrase, “Many are called, few are chosen”, those who went beyond mere obedience to the master and genuinely stilled their minds so they could non-intellectually immerse themselves into the depths of ‘Kyu Shin Do’ began learning on entirely new planes, and they learned about more than judo – they learned the Buddhist way of life.

Peter was one such dedicated student, and as such he quickly caught a glimpse of that speck of Zen light which leads to enlightenment, and the rest is history – the persona through which Peter channelled Zen Kyu Shin Do emerged and became Kendo Nagasaki, a living metaphor for how strong and focussed we must be to overcome the challenges of life, exhibiting an indomitable strength born of Zen stillness.

In illuminating this example of the positivity which can flow from Zen, this healing blog entry is an objective look at how a young man with few opportunities or saving graces took notice of an opportunity to go beyond the limitations of his life, through Zen open the door to the wisdom of his intuitive self, and, as a Zen master would wordlessly imply, begin his journey towards enlightenment.

One of the core things that Buddhism is about is finding what really matters in life by letting go of all that ultimately doesn’t; this is practised in meditation, and whilst it can be conducted in full consciousness as a ‘thought experiment’, this can rapidly lead to escalating anxiety when we contemplate an existence without our western comforts and toys! However, these things ultimately do not define our essential selves and they can safely be let go – rather, it is intangible qualities which truly matter: strength, optimism, pro-socialness, willingness to help others make the most of themselves (particularly through Zen). This is what Sensei Abbe did for a teen-age Peter Thornley, and what Peter now hopes to do for everyone he can reach.

In these extremely difficult times, many of us are losing livelihoods, possessions, even homes, and as distressing as such ‘reversals of fortune’ feel, there is so much more to us than what we may lose or may have lost. Collectively, we are the energy of a successful society, a family of humanity, and we can always be fundamentally important to each other and the ‘family’ of our entire society. Meditation is a great help in these times, bringing peace amidst turmoil and loss, and showing us what really matters – that we matter, come what may, and that we will always have the power to support and help others, and in so doing, be genuinely worthy as individuals, irrespective of unimportant material trappings.

Like so many of us, Peter is facing challenges in these difficult times, some of them quite momentous, and to cope he practises his life-long discipline of Zen Kyu Shin Do – finding Zen peace, placing all his cares metaphorically away from his ‘self’, and opening himself to the quiet wisdom of his intuitive self. This meditation has never failed him and it never will, and even in the most difficult of times, you can find your valuable, wise, strong essential self and take heart in knowing that you are not diminished by material loss, but are strengthened by finding your own intuitive wisdom.

As Kendo would say, from the enlightenment born of Zen peace, all that’s negative can be transcended, and boundless positivity can flow.

Kendo’s Healing Message for October

As the significant changes in our lives continue, and seem to be becoming more restrictive once again, Kendo feels that it may be helpful to have a conscious perspective on our reality, something to recall when we lament the loss of all we’ve known in our lives – at least, until there’s a vaccine for Covid.

For many of us, our realities have contracted; we can’t meet with the people we used to see whenever we wanted, we can’t go to the places we once went to without a second thought, and we are increasingly ‘house-bound’ by social distancing regulations. Life can now seem quite diminished, and perhaps even oppressive.

It would be easy to feel negatively about all this, but that is to be avoided wherever possible – negative feelings can lead to depressive feelings, and when they set-in, our creativity and optimism diminish – but all this can be side-stepped, with an ‘outlook adjustment’.

Kendo would point out that our current restrictions are actually an excellent Zen Koan – a challenge for which there is no ready intellectual solution. Likewise, his recommendation is both simple and, at the same time, incredibly profound – it’s existentialism.

This is a term from philosophy, which relates to the concept of existence; we all exist, but one could ask, “How do I exist? What is the nature of my existence?” Considering this question quickly brings us back to the issue of quality-of-life, not as in ‘what does life give to me?’, but instead, ‘how am I a positive force in the life around me?’

As he has espoused for many years, Kendo has recommended giving ourselves some contemplative space, by setting-aside our technological gadgets and screens, and remembering that we are a part of the big picture of nature. Nature is so much more than our ‘monkey-minds’, which constantly demand stimulation – and, as integral parts of nature, so are we, and it’s immensely healthy to remember that, look around at nature, and begin to feel it once again.

Stilling our minds and finding complete Zen peace by meditating will always be healing and balancing, but what Kendo is recommending now is to also adopt a conscious, waking willingness to recognise the positive in the connections we still have, even in these restricted times. We are most likely in touch with at least a few people, and one of the benefits of technology is that we can contact many more, and now is an opportunity to be grateful for those relationships and to nurture them.

Some aspects of our lives have been taken away for the time being, but there’s nothing to be gained from resenting that, because it’s entirely beyond our control – say as the Japanese say, “Shou ga nai!” – it can’t be helped, so look at what is good in your life and what good you still may be able to do. You can still make a positive difference in the lives of those around you, and adopting this attitude will mean that you are being the best you can be, which will inevitably benefit your family and, by extension, the whole of society.

Kendo points out that our current Zen Koan, while initially appearing somewhat weighty, is actually giving us all the chance to focus on what really matters in human existence – each other – and how we can help each other, both the few we are currently in direct contact with, and the many we can reach remotely.

Wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, always strive to be the best you can be, and the whole world will ultimately become a better place for all.

Kendo’s Healing Message for September

As we continue to find our social lives limited by restrictions on movement and the numbers whom we can meet, how can we continue to feel ‘normal’?

The current restrictions are unwelcome but undeniably necessary, and their effect can be lessened by using apps for virtual meet-ups, but it is still all quite a change to normal life. Change can be a greater or lesser challenge for us all, and even when we steel ourselves and ‘hang in there’ or find some way of coping, what happens to us when it happens again and again, going on for so long?

It is worth remembering that some people seek solace in order to find peace of mind and understanding of themselves and their place in the universe, and they can stay away from mainstream society for years. Staying in a monastery for long-term meditation can lead to true enlightenment, which is finding answers to any and all questions about – as they say – ‘life, the universe, and everything’!

Those who act upon such a calling are unlikely to read an online blog such as this, so hopefully it can be of help to those who live comparatively regular lives and enjoy the internet; but it is worth remembering that during these socially-constrained tomes when many of us are using the internet more than ever before, the answers to our questions cannot always come from outside ourselves – some can only come from within.

Like so many who have direct experience of its benefits, the man behind Kendo Nagasaki’s mask is an advocate of meditation. The outside world can throw challenges beyond imagination at us, yet with meditation it always remains within our power to escape from the immediate negative experience of those challenges, as well as neutralise the worry which can blind us to the most powerful resource that can help us overcome reversals – our own intuitive wisdom. Once we’ve found that place of Zen peace, we will be completely at peace, and our intuitive selves will wordlessly guide us towards maintaining that peace, even when we return to the challenging ‘real world’. As Kendo points out, meditation is liberating, enlightening, and healing.

So, when you’ve streamed everything that’s looked interesting to you (and even some stuff that wasn’t!), when you’ve looked everywhere for answers but still find yourself questioning, it’s time to look within yourself. As Kendo has remarked many times before, the western world is incredibly rich in distractions and entertainments and ‘time-fillers’ which can keep the conscious mind occupied, but the time inevitably comes when we find ourselves looking for something with more meaning – something deeper. It’s been known by philosophers for centuries that the mind is a limited thing, and that true wisdom springs from more than mere ‘thought’, and once you accept this you open the door to the wealth of wisdom which lies beyond your stilled mind – this is the Buddha within.

Just as feelings cannot be ‘reasoned’ either into existence or away, enlightenment or wisdom cannot be created with the mind. Switching it off for a while allows the deeper levels of ourselves to flow naturally, giving us understanding and tolerance and resilience towards any hardship. You might have noticed that the way our lives are currently restricted upsets the conscious mind – be reassured that there is more to life than the distractions which it craves, and there is more to you, too. If the mind’s distress is upsetting you, switch it off and escape from that stress, and in the process, heal yourself on a deeper level and open yourself to the enlightenment of your own intuitive self.

Kendo might suggest that our current social restrictions are an invitation to take advantage of the solace from which the deep contemplations of those in monasteries give them so much; as the saying goes, currently, we have lemons, so let’s make lemonade! Use this time to find the true, wise depths of your own intuitive self, and you’ll have turned what at first appeared to be a negative into a life-long positive.